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Julius Duscha


1924 - 2015 Obituary Condolences
Julius Duscha Obituary
Julius Duscha

1924 to 2015

Julius Duscha, a Washington Post political reporter and journalism educator, died in San Francisco on July 2 at the age of 90.
Mr. Duscha was an editorial writer and reporter at the Washington Post from 1958 to 1966, advancing to chief national political reporter. After leaving the Post he was assistant director of the Stanford University Professional Journalism Fellowship Program and then headed the Washington Journalism Center for 22 years before he retired to San Francisco. At the Journalism Center he arranged fellowships and seminars on Washington issues for hundreds of practicing journalists. Throughout his career, he continued to write for the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Harpers, Washington Monthly, The Progressive and other publications. Politics fascinated him. He covered ten presidents from Truman to Clinton as a political reporter.
Although he was a lifelong Democrat, Mr. Duscha reported in a time when reporters reported, didn't shout on television, and kept their opinions to themselves. On the campaign trail with Kennedy he saw nuns jumping up and down in the crowds. He covered Barry Goldwater-Mr. Conservative-- and wrote a NY Times Magazine cover story on Governor Ronald Reagan. Nevertheless, Nixon put him on his Presidential Enemies List, which Mr. Duscha said, partly in jest, was the greatest honor he ever received. He never knew why he was put on the list. The FBI denied it had a file on him, although later in life he received FBI memos showing J. Edgar Hoover objected to his reporting on the FBI television series in 1967.
Mr. Duscha was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. His mother was a country school teacher before she married his father, a shoe salesman in a local department store. He met his first wife, Priscilla, the daughter of an Iowa doctor, when they were both students at the University of Minnesota. Mr. Duscha was already working at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, where he started as a copy boy and later reported on the University for the paper. He was a Nieman Fellow during the 1955-56 academic year at Harvard University.
Mr. Duscha loved baseball and meticulously recorded every play on a scorecard at every game he attended as a season ticket holder for the Washington Senators, San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's. He was a big movie fan, too. As a teenager he worked as the assistant manager of the St Claire Theater where he could see Ginger Rogers on the big screen. He continued his "show biz" career in later life as a Netflix subscriber watching Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon and other classics.
Mr. Duscha was a reporter which meant he was curious about people and the world around him. He tapped out the story quickly with two fingers on a typewriter. He could write anyone's story. Because of this he developed a tolerance for all kinds of people and all kinds of decisions, including the good and bad choices his children made. He covered presidents, Congress and one time a wedding, but he was most proud of a cover story he wrote for the New York Times Magazine. The editor called him just after the 1968 riots protesting the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King asking him to write about the people who experienced the burning and looting in their neighborhood on 7th Street in Washington D.C. Taking his 15-year-old daughter with him, he interviewed every resident and shopkeeper on a burned out block of Seventh Street in Washington. The reader relived the burning and looting of one neighborhood through their eyes and his reporting. Here is a taste: "Down by R Street, Mary Harris and her son, Eugene, fled from their apartment above the burning Gritz Shoe Store and found refuge in one of the two storefront churches in the middle of the block. Â'It was the only safe place,' Mrs. Harris, a short, heavy, 31-year old woman commented later. Next to the shoe store and her apartment, the Manhattan Auto accessories store was burning, too, but no one lived above it."
He wrote three books: Taxpayer's Hayride, about the federal farm program and a notorious con man, Billie Sol Estes; Arms, Money and Politics, an early critique of the military industrial complex; and From Pea Soup to Politics: How a Poor Minnesota Boy Became a Washington Insider, which was his own memoir. Hayride and Arms, Money are part of the Library of Congress collection. As a published author, he met the criteria for membership in the Cosmos Club in Washington, which he joined in the early 1980's.
In San Francisco he was a faithful member of the Sacramento Seminar, a weekly political discussion group led by former State Senator Paul Priolo at the North Beach Restaurant.
He loved San Francisco where he lived with his second wife of 20 years, Suzanne, who he married after Priscilla died in 1992. Suzanne explored San Francisco, traveled with him, and cared for him at home after he became ill. They lived in a twelve story building with 24 hour doorman service. One of the doorman remembered him fondly, "You know during all those years Mr. Duscha was the only one who never treated me as just a doorman. He was like a father to me. "
Mr. Duscha is survived by his wife, Suzanne; his children, Fred, Steve, Suzanne, and Sally; and his grandchildren, Melissa, Erika, Jessie, Elizabeth, Amelia, Erin, and Mathias. He will be buried at sea
In lieu of flowers, Mr. Duscha, who read three newspapers a day, would have wanted you to buy a newspaper and read it before real, printed newspapers disappear.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on July 26, 2015
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